25 April 2019
Posted by HMC Press Office

The report by Professor Peter Clough, the head of the Department of Psychology at Huddersfield University, showed that physical activity significantly improved mental toughness and can help students cope with the pressures of exams.

David Elstone, (pictured) the head of Hymers College in Hull and Chair of the HMC Sports Sub-Committee that commissioned the report, welcomed the findings.

“My 34 years’ experience as a teacher and head tells me that sport significantly boosts the confidence, resilience and performance of young people in the classroom,” he said. “I am delighted that this is borne out by Professor Clough’s important new research.

“It is understandable that parents can worry about their children taking time out of exam revision. However, we advise pupils to keep a healthy balance between mind and body by continuing sport and exercise in the run up to their exams.”

Prof Clough’s research comes as the Government steps up efforts to get more school children to take part in character-building competitive sport, with Education Secretary Damian Hinds announcing that a new School Sport Action Plan is to be published soon

The Youth Sport Trust are planning to use the research tool that HMC has produced with state schools and use the findings to help demonstrate to Government Ministers and Ofsted the importance of sport in the curriculum.

Prof Clough is due to present his research with Alison Oliver, the CEO of the Youth Sport Trust, at HMC’s Spring Conference in London on May 1.

“My research shows that children who routinely play sport are mentally tougher and psychologically healthier than others, and according to previous research these factors may have a link to better academic performance,” he said.

“So these findings strongly suggest that students revising for their GCSEs or A-levels should not abandon sport. Balance is important, and sport plays a vital role in preparing them for the pressures of the exam room. It can even help some young people thrive when in stressful situations.”

Basing his findings on a sample of 1,482 15 and 16 year old boys and girls in 19 independent schools, he found that many pupils who were involved a range of sports from cricket to netball felt that sports participation was related to improvements in their performance in school.

His report found that:

  • Involvement in sport at school is advantageous
  • It is linked to greater character development and psychological wellbeing
  • Many pupils felt their participation in sport boosted their school work, even though this research did not prove a direct link
  • Sport may help weaker performers reach their full potential

See the full report here

See a blog by David Elstone here